Although the BET
Awards doled out awards to some of entertainment's most
celebrated performers on Tuesday night, from Beyonce to
Jennifer Hudson, it was the show's tributes to living
legends and recently departed giants that evoked the
achievement honoree Diana Ross urged younger performers to
''keep it classy'' and refrain from foul behavior. A tearful
Patti LaBelle joined an all-star tribute to R&B
crooner Gerald Levert, who died last year. And fists
pumped in the air as hip-hop group Public Enemy
honored the late Godfather of Soul, James Brown, with a
stirring rendition of one of his landmark hits, ''Say
It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud).''
gets credit for laying the musical foundations of hip-hop,
but he set some attitudes for the culture as well. He was
pro-black, pro-strong,'' said civil rights activist
and Brown's longtime friend, the Reverend Al Sharpton.
''It's time for us to pick up the legacy and teach
another generation to wear their shoulders back and hold
their heads high and be able to say it loud, I'm black
and I'm proud.''
With that, Public
Enemy's Flavor Flav and Chuck D took the stage,
launching into a medley of hits, including ''Fight the
Power'' and ''911 Is a Joke.'' They were joined by
veteran bassist Bootsy Collins, wearing his trademark
shades, for a cover of ''Say it Loud.'' Brown died on
Christmas Day last year.
ceremony was laden with more performances than awards;
some trophies were given off-camera. Beyonce, who led
all nominees with six, won two awards, as did her
Dreamgirls film costar Jennifer Hudson, who
snagged awards for Best New Artist and Best Actress.
''I can't believe
I'm still winning awards!'' she said as she won her
first of the night.
kick off the show with a union of Dreamgirls past and
present: a stirring duet with Jennifer Holliday.
Though Hudson won
a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award this year for
her role as Effie in Dreamgirls, it was Holliday who
originated the role on Broadway almost three decades
ago and made the song ''And I Am Telling You I'm Not
Going'' one of the most memorable performances in
The two Jennifers
united to sing what is now both women's signature
song--particularly noteworthy given Holliday's
complaints about being ignored for her contributions
Ross was feted
with a multisong tribute. Erykah Badu got it started with
her cover of ''Love Hangover.'' Others paying tribute to
Ross included fellow Motown legend Stevie Wonder,
R&B queen Chaka Khan, and Ross's five children,
including actors Tracee Ellis Ross and Evan Ross.
The night's most
touching performance was O'Jays singer Eddie Levert's
tribute to his late son, singer Gerald Levert, who died in
November 2006. The elder Levert was joined by Gladys
Knight, LaBelle, and Yolanda Adams for a
heart-wrenching rendition of ''Wind Beneath My Wings,''
which Gerald Levert often performed.
teary-eyed as she described Gerald Levert as ''one of the
best voices around.''
''His life was
embodied with soul music,'' she said.
Ne-Yo, who won
Best Male R&B Artist, dedicated his award to Levert,
also nominated in the category.
awards for Best Female R&B Artist and Video of the
Year for ''Irreplaceable.'' She delivered a showstopping
performance of her own with her dance anthem ''Get Me
Bodied''--appearing on stage in gold robot gear,
which she whittled down to sleek gold lame pants and a
matching bra top. Her fellow Destiny Child member Kelly
Rowland appeared moments later to perform her solo hit
''Like This'' with Eve, and later the Destiny's Child
reunion was complete when Beyonce and Michelle
Williams appeared onstage.
Don Cheadle, who
won the Humanitarian Award, was the subject of a tribute
that focused on his efforts to raise awareness about
genocide in Darfur.
humanitarians such as Martin Luther King Jr., Mother Teresa,
and Gandhi, the Oscar-nominated star of Hotel
Rwanda said he didn't feel worthy of the award.
''I started to
respectfully decline in deference to those doing it day to
day,'' he said. ''As I accept...I hope one day to be
deserving of it.''
included T.I., who was named Best Hip-Hop Artist. He not
only offered thanks, but apologies after getting involved in
a scuffle with members of Ludacris's camp earlier in
''They say it's a
fine line between brilliance and insanity,'' he said,
Ludacris won Best
Collaboration for ''Runaway Love,'' his song about
wayward girls in trouble, with Mary J. Blige. Though he's
know for songs about partying and wild behavior, he
got serious as he talked about the impact of ''Runaway
''This was much
more than a song, this was a movement,'' the rapper-actor
said. ''People say there's no content in hip-hop. This song
is proof that there's content in hip-hop.''
That wasn't as
evident when 50 Cent took the stage to perform his new
hit, ''Amusement Park,'' which was bleeped several times and
ended with a shout-out to his sponsor, Vitamin Water.
Perhaps with that
performance in mind, Ross, as she accepted her award,
implored performers to keep it clean.
''I have tried to
keep the standards high,'' she said. ''We do not have
to say the f word, we do not have to pump and grind,
we do not have to some of these things to have
longevity in our career.'' (AP)